H&M had good start to 2020 before virus hit

STOCKHOLM (AFP) – Swedish retail giant H&M had a strong start to the year but like many others it expects a rough second quarter owing to the COVID-19 crisis, it said yesterday.

The clothing company’s net profit from December 2019 to February jumped to SEK1.9 billion (USD190 million), from SEK803 million in the same period a year earlier.

Sales meanwhile gained 7.7 per cent to SEK54 billion, H&M said in a statement.

That said, “with each day that we are having to keep stores closed, the situation is becoming increasingly demanding,” the company noted.

“In the second half of the quarter the group’s sales were muted by the rapid outbreak of coronavirus, particularly in China where sales decreased by 84 per cent in February.”

H&M has now closed around three-quarters of its stores worldwide.

“The second quarter will naturally be very negatively impacted by the corona situation and will therefore be loss-making,” the group warned.

A woman walks past a closed branch of the retail chain H&M in Regents Street in London. PHOTO: AP